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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Is Ken Holland the right man?

Welcome, welcome, welcome, friends, to another edition of the Monday mailbag. Once again, it’s that special time of the week where I’ve taken the questions you’ve sent me over the last seven days and fired them off to our writers to get all the answers and wisdom that you’ve always been looking for. This week, we look at Ken Holland coming to town, what would make a successful offseason, the bottom six forwards, and more. And I know I say this every week, but this segment is entirely dependent on you guys to make it work, so send me your questions. You can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk.com.

1) Terrance asks – What were your first thoughts when you heard the new GM was going to be Ken Holland?

Jason Gregor:

Lots of experience. Solid track record for drafting and developing and is a great communicator. Good first step, but as I’ve said for months, there needs to be other changes to turn this team around.

Robin Brownlee:

Surprised at how certain Rod Pedersen sounded about it when he put it out there. Didn’t see it happening. Once confirmed, couldn’t imagine the Oilers getting a guy with this much experience and success. Don’t see how they could have done better. He’ll win the skeptics over soon enough.

Cam Lewis:

I wasn’t overly surprised. This situation is probably best suited by a veteran general manager. I think that we’ll see a Lou Lamoriello thing here in which Holland will groom the next guy for the job. Anyways, I wasn’t a big fan at first because the Red Wings haven’t exactly been admirable as of late. Then as I read more things that Wings fans and writers said about Holland, I became more optimistic. A lot of his recent flaws had to do with being keeping the franchise’s playoff streak alive, and, since it’s ended, he’s done a nice job of rebuilding.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m trying to be optimistic about the hire, but there are a few red flags. The fact he didn’t have to interview and was picked the same way that Chiarelli was is concerning. GM’s rarely find success in their second stints as well, so that’s noteworthy. Regardless, he’s one of the greats so I’m not going to judge this hiring until we see what he can do over the course of a few offseasons.

Chris the Intern:

I was pretty happy. I’ve come around and am much more excited about his hiring since then. At the time I was cautiously optimistic.

Baggedmilk:

My first thought was one of concern. Detroit is one of the top spending teams in the league and they’ve missed the playoffs for the past three years, so bringing in the architect from that situation made me nervous, to say the least. I’ve since changed my tune a little bit but those were my first thoughts.

2) Clay asks – Overall, did the Katz/Nicholson/Holland press conference make you feel better about the future of the Oilers or is it still too early to tell? If so, what did you hear that made the difference?

Jason Gregor:

Actions speak louder than words. I need to see change, before any of the words, and there were many positive ones, truly mean much.

Robin Brownlee:

Results will tell the story. Knowing Ken, no surprises in what he said. Holland is a winner. Fans expect him to be one here.

Cam Lewis:

Not really. I’ve heard a lot of things said and very little executed.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The presser didnt really do anything for me. I thought Darryl Katz spoke rather well and Ken Holland gave some long, honest answers. I enjoyed that part. I thought Nicholson looked smug and I wasnt a fan of some of the quotes he dropped. All in all, it’s a press conference so I’m not reading too much into it.

Chris the Intern:

Yes I did. Granted I may just be drinking the kool-aid because I felt the same way after Chiarelli was hired. But hearing Ken Holland speak with such assertiveness and confidence made me very excited about what’s to come. He has a lifetime of experience, and now he’s ours.

Baggedmilk:

Yes, actually. I thought Holland handled himself extremely well, owned his past mistakes, and presented some clear ideas that were refreshing to hear. Now, I’ve still got my guard up, that’s life as an Oilers fan, but I am excited to see how the summer goes and how things might look by the time training camp rolls around.

3) Kristen asks – Now that the GM search is over, what would you consider to be a successful offseason for Ken Holland and the Oilers? I know he said that finding a coach is a top priority but what else does he need to accomplish before everyone comes back to town for training camp?

Jason Gregor:

He needs to upgrade the skill of the depth scorers, but also find ones who are willing to accept the role he outlines for them. He needs to add another goalie, ideally a top-four right shot D-man and he needs to make some changes in management and scouting. I think the latter two will occur over the next 15 months. Some right away and more as he understands who he has.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m interested to see who the new coach is and if he keeps anybody from the current coaching staff. Holland also needs to address the rest of hockey ops — who stays and who goes as AGMs and scouts. What happens with Keith Gretzky? Needs a goaltender.

Cam Lewis:

Moving out some problematic contracts would be good. Finding a way to upgrade the offence is huge too. I think success, given what we’ve dealt with from the Chiarelli era, would simply be not adding any more bad contracts and not losing any value in trades.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The coaching search is top priority. Next, I want to see if he can shed out one or two big contracts (Lucic, Russell, Sekera) and then bring in a young, skilled forward to pair with Nuge. That might be asking alot, but he’s getting paid a lot of money, so I’m setting the bar high.

Chris the Intern:

I would like to see him clear up some cap space. I would love to see a big move from him, however I don’t think that will happen. I’m expecting a few small moves to open up some cap space and increase our forward depth, and if that happens I will be satisfied.

Baggedmilk:

If he can clear some significant cap space without having to sell the farm to do it then I would declare that an overwhelming success. It won’t be easy, the Oilers have plenty of bad contracts that need to be moved, but if he can upgrade the middle six and clear some runway on the backend then I think he’ll win people over very quickly.

4) Tristen asks – Pretend you’re Ken Holland for a moment, which bottom-six forwards would you be hanging on to for next season? Why?

Jason Gregor:

Kassian. Excellent skater, brings energy and showed if you need him to move up the lineup for stretches he can hold his own very well.

Khaira and Puljujarvi have room to grow, and I could see them return, but could also see a trade. I think it would be risky to move Puljujarvi, because you are selling him low and he still has a lot of potential.

Cave, Gagner and Brodziak come to camp and will battle for a spot, but no guarantee they are in the opening night lineup. Depends who else he is able to sign. I could see Brodziak as the veteran who comes in and out of the lineup when injuries occur.

Robin Brownlee:

Kassian, Chiasson and Khaira are the only locks for me. I like that two of the three (Kassian and Chiasson) have the ability to move up and down the line-up. Provides flexibility.

Cam Lewis:

I think Jujhar Khaira has a role on the team given his versatility. Zack Kassian thrived nicely on the top line and is a good bottom-six player. Colby Cave, though devoid of offence, is fine as an extra skater. I think you need more guys on the third and fourth line who can produce offence.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

That’s a tough question. I’d like to keep Kassian, Chiasson, and Gagner but none of them will be very friendly towards the salary cap. Kassian and Chiasso could find themselves in the top six as well. I like Colby Cave since he makes league minimum and skates pretty well. Jujhar Khaira should be rather inexpensive as well. Those are my five that I’d like to see back. Jesse Puljujarvi could be on the third line as well.

Chris the Intern:

Zack Kassian, Sam Gagner, and Alex Chiasson are my three favourites. Jujhar Khaira too I suppose… depending what you consider a bottom six forward.

Baggedmilk:

I’d keep Gagner, Kassian, Chiasson (depending on the contract), and Cave but that’s about it.

Apr 23, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Barclay Goodrow (23) celebrates with defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) and center Joe Thornton (19) after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights during overtime in game seven of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

5) Sam asks – What is everyone’s prediction for the third round of the playoffs? I’ve got San Jose and Boston meeting in the Finals with San Jose taking it.

Jason Gregor:

I had Sharks at the start so I will stick with them. I have Bruins in 5, and Sharks in 6.

Robin Brownlee:

It’ll be Boston and San Jose in the final. Hoping Joe Thornton gets his first Cup.

Cam Lewis:

Joe Thornton finally wins his Stanley Cup beating his former team.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I took Carolina to win in seven games and the Blues to win in six games. Neither one is looking hot right now, but I’ve been awful with my predictions this spring so I’m not surprised.

Chris the Intern:

I’ve got San Jose over the Blues in seven, and Boston over Hurricanes in five.

Baggedmilk:

I’ll go with St. Louis in the West and Boston in the East. From there, I think St. Louis would take the Finals in six-games.

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  • Beer

    I predict there will be a blunt conversation between Holland and Pullarvii’s agent. Things get straightened out, or he get’s traded. Like the kid, but it’s time for you to show me something.

    • Big Nuggets

      I think so too. Holland won’t bend over backwards for Puljujarvi and his agent. I’d give puljujarvi until halfway through next season to show some promise, otherwise I think he needs a change of scenery. It might be nice to sign Filpula for a 3rd line center and see if Jesse can develop chemistry with his countryman.

    • Something big is going to happen to JP this offseason, I don’t know if he’ll get more minutes here or get traded but something is happening. If you ask me I’d bet it’s the later, Holland didn’t draft him so he has zero attachment to him. If Holland likes him he could keep him but I don’t think he’ll force him into the top-6 upon the next coach.

  • Ass Eatn Szn 69

    Heard that Holland said not to the job three times. the fourth offer was finally enough. I hope he is the right man, but if he didnt want to be here, is he? Also pretty funny the smoke screen Burgers did in calling it a long and processed search. McCrimmon and hunter were interviewed for the purpose of trying to appease the fan base. This is no Hollands fault at all, but this organization never changes, lets hope that Holland can take this over, purge the OBC and finally have this organization move forward.

  • Spydyr

    The only person that won’t be back in the same position so far is Hitchcock .
    Holland is buddies from way back with Burger Bob.
    It sure looks likes nothing will be changing inside the “Oilers Braintrust”.
    Looks like more of the same .

    • TKB2677

      Holland has had the job for a week. Were you expecting him to fire everyone without talking to them first? If this was K. Gretzky and he said changes to the staff were coming and he did nothing yet, then maybe I would be alarmed. Gretzky has been working with these guys for years and has been the GM for the last 3 months, so he doesn’t need to talk to anyone for information. Holland is an outside guy who didn’t work for the organization.The prudent thing to do for a guy who is coming from outside, would be to at least talk to your staff first and get all the information you can from them before letting some go.

      I get people are super negative on the Oilers but some people seriously need to take a step back and use some logic here before going into automatic freak out mode.

        • TKB2677

          What do you do for a living? Are you self employed? I am asking you because as a person who works in an office setting and is in management, I can tell you that when a new manager walks into an office, he doesn’t introduce himself to the staff then immediately fire everyone in sight. A good manager comes in, talks to the staff, finds out all the information he can and then makes his decisions.

          For the record, I have said it many times, I think Mac T, Howson and anyone on the pro side should be fired. The results speak for themselves but I am not foolish enough to think this happens after being on the job for 1 week. He’s meeting with all the pro staff and amateur staff this week. After those meetings happen, I expect to start seeing changes.

          • Spydyr

            Holland had no issue moving on from Hitchcock his first day on the job. It should have been the same for Mac-T and Howson and almost every pro scout. I could see keeping the amateur scouting until after the draft but change is needed throughout the organization.

            The biggest tell will be who is sitting at the draft table.

          • Hemmercules

            Exactly. From what I understood Holland was spending the better part of his first week as an Oiler watching Bakersfield and I assume preparing for his upcoming meetings with the existing staff.

            I wouldn’t worry too much about Howson or Mact influencing Holland. Holland said himself he only listens to people he knows and trusts. There’s no way he puts the same kind of trust in those two that Chia did right out of the gate.

            Bobby should have cleaned house somewhat prior to hiring a GM but here we are. I expect Holland to make his staff changes over the next couple of weeks and I will be surprised if Howson survives it. MacT might get canned but I have a feeling he remains in some type of position that doesn’t involve scouting or assisting the GM will NHL roster moves.

          • Hemmercules

            Holland said he wants a coach that will be there for years. Hitch said prior to coming here he didn’t want to coach a bunch of years, It was a planned interim from the beginning. Hitch didn’t get fired either, they just said he won’t be coach. Holland would have to review and interview the scouts to know what exactly they were involved in and what players they had a a hand in adding/moving.

            I have said it before though, If Mact and Howsen are at that draft table then I will start getting worried again.

      • Lowe, Howson, Mac -T , Bob Green and staff and Booby Burgers most definitely should be gone already . Does not matter how long Ken Holland has been employed, the ones listed their incompetence is well known throughout the league, in fact might be reaching legendary status for incompetence.

    • Mcjesus97

      Tired of fans like you complaining all the time about the obc. Get over it as much as I hate them let’s face it Lowe and mact don’t make any decisions they are not getting fired. I just hope the scouts get fired. And of course they are buddies I’m sure holland is buddies with the whole league he has been with the wings 35 plus years.

  • TKB2677

    I have seen this comment about Holland a lot how he “didn’t get an interview” from the negative Oilers fans. That’s correct. They didn’t fly in Holland, he didn’t sit in an office in front of a bunch of people. But when someone makes that comment, do that know what an interview is about? When you interview a person, you bring them in to get to know the person. You want to find out what they are like and if they will fit in with your company. You want to find out if what the person said in his resume is true or a load of bs. You want to find out if that person is capable of doing the job.
    Did the Oilers need to find out what Holland is like as a guy? Well no, Nicholson knows him well plus anyone else given Holland has been around for as long as he has been would know him.

    Did the Oilers need to find out if Holland and what he would say on his resume was true? Well no, he’s got 30+ yrs in the business to prove his resume is true.

    Did the Oilers need to find out if he can be an NHL GM? Well no, he’s been a GM for like 30 yrs.

    So what’s left? Well you need to ask him how he would fix the Oilers. Apparently, Nicholson and the Oilers talked to Holland multiple times. They talked to him early in the process of finding candidates. They talked to him at the U 18’s, they talked to him after the U-18’s several times after he decided he wanted to be a GM. So does anyone seriously think the Oilers how HOlland would fix the Oilers never came up?

    • Spydyr

      If you are not “negative Oilers fan” after watching the team in the Katz era you are either in denial, are falling for the hope the team offers ever summer or an idiot. Or perhaps a combination of all three.

      • TKB2677

        I am pissed with how things have gone with the Oilers and I expect to see some changes. I am encouraged by the amateur side a bit. They still have a bit to go on the forward side but it seems like the Oilers are finally starting to stock pile some prospects and have guys pushing for spots which every team needs. But the Oilers pro side has sucked. No way to sugar coat it. I am expecting changes because even the Oilers can’t hide the fact that things have been lousy. But I am not so irrational with rage and I think it would be completely irresponsible for any new GM to walk into the job and fire the entire pro side without at least meeting with them first. That would be stupid.

  • billsbills

    When I looked at the prospect of Bob not firing anyone and making the new GM do it, I was disappointed. But after thinking it through, the people here, specifically the pro scouts and senior managers that probably should go, are going to be needed. Not fair either to hire a new GM who has zero support staff around him. Holland will need the help from people who know the team and players while he runs through the summer. He said this is the busiest time for a hockey management team. Making him hire a whole new team at the same time he is preparing for the draft, looking for a coach and trying to shed salaries by way of trade would be too much even for an experienced GM.

  • The biggest thing for Holland this offseason is to start moving as many parts and pieces as he can, a fire sale(more like garbage sale actually). If he can move whatever deadweight and overpriced anchors he can without losing too much assets with them then that’s a successful offseason.

  • IRONman

    Draft and develop. Oilers are now drafting outside round 1 much better since 2015. I do not like the attitude of here is your jersey kid (18yo) go score some goals. Puljujarvi needs more time. Holland is the guy. He is a crystal clear GM. He can fix this mess. He has McDavid at 22 yo. In 1997 he had 32 yo Yzerman. With K Gretzky drafting and his experience it will be positively awesome in 2 years. Bye Lucic, Sekera.

  • Serious Gord

    I think Holland was the wrong hire. that there should have been two hires – a POHO and a GM.

    Now that he is let’s make judgements on a go-forward basis. As several commenters have noted, a key test will be the removal of MacT and others from anything to do with the management of the hockey side. If any of those incompetent clowns are at the table on draft day then BN has been talking out his a$$ and very likely Holland will be a disastrous hire.

    Draft day is 5 1/2 weeks away. Holland is going to have to make those moves within the next couple weeks if he’s going to have some time to install their replacements.

    The last thing I want to see from Holland is mercy – taking pity on the incompetents because they are friends and ‘Good’ guys. Ruthlessness is one of THE primary attributes a manager in this kind of org needs. And it is what fans are wanting.

    I suspect one of the key reasons why Holland was punted upstairs and Yzerman was installed was because he lacked ruthlessness. Some of the contracts he signed late in his tenure would support that notion. Many may not be aware or may have forgotten that Yzerman has been particularly cold-blooded/ruthless when he was at Tampa. The Drouin trade and trading Bishop away are two examples.

  • oilfan4ever

    What the heck are all these ads from Total Battle that are totally screwing up this site. Is it my computer or are others having a problem. Oilernation is the only place they are popping up.

  • ed from edmonton

    What would constitute a good off season for Holland? Excellent question as there are so many things that need to be addressed and it would seem unlikely every thing can be cleaned in one off season. Realistically if he can find a competent goaltender and off load either Sekera or Russel without having to give up too much I would consider it a good start. I would also strongly suggest he fires McT and Howson it will buy him a lot of “good will” with the fan base.